Book Review: Wallis in Love: The Untold Live of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton

By , Columnist
On YouTube there is still an interview of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, conducted in 1970 by the broadcaster Kenneth Harris. Readers of Andrew Morton’s latest royal biography Wallis in Love: The Untold Live of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy would do well to first watch the clip and observe the strange bird-like movements of the brittle Duchess, her flapping hand gestures, her defensive answers, and to note the slavish adoration of the besotted Duke.


Morton’s new book gives the inside story of that fabled relationship. Backed by recently discovered letters and first -hand accounts, he reveals that Wallis’s heart was taken not by the King who gave up his throne for the woman he loved, but by a suave, handsome American called Herman Rogers.

Herman and his first wife Katherine have long been acknowledged as central to the dramatic events of the abdication in December 1936: while Edward VIII left his country, responsibility and family behind for an uncertain future, Wallis was cossetted at Lou Viei, the Riviera villa of the Rogers. They were her hosts and protectors while the King, now Duke of Windsor, went to Austria and waited out the then legally required time apart before Wallis’s divorce from her second husband, Ernest Simpson, became absolute.

During that period Wallis and Herman grew uncomfortably close - he slept in a room next to hers with a pistol to ward off intruders. His wife slept downstairs. 

Wallis and Edward were reunited and about to be married at the Chateau Conde, the Loire Valley home of American entrepreneur Charles Bedaux. Morton has uncovered evidence that Wallis propositioned Herman, suggesting that a baby conceived so near to the wedding would be assumed to be the Duke’s.

It seems that Herman was ever the gentleman, and declined her offer. Widowed some years later, he remarried. Wallis warned his second bride, Lucy: “I’ll hold you responsible if anything ever happens to Herman. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved.”

The book is littered with examples of Wallis’ ferocious temper: she slashed the trousers of an earlier love. The poor doting Duke, however, got the brunt of her fury with numerous put-downs.  

To modern eyes she looks a hard-face harridan, yet her intense gaze and her clever ploy of showing interest as men talked about themselves won her three husbands and several lovers.

As Morton concedes, the definition of the latter is questionable; she spoke to friends as not 'allowing men south of the Mason/ Dixon line’. Some doubt that her marriages were ever consummated. Having read this book and several others about Wallis, I think that a highly unlikely theory.  Morton does not subscribe to the strange rumour that Wallis was a man, confirming that she had ovarian cancer and a consequent hysterectomy.

A social climber par excellence, Wallis had little time for ordinary people, and true to the conventions of her narrow world, was also racist. Recording the days when Wallis' obedient husband, was Governor of the Bahamas during World War Two, Morton notes: " When a black resident entered Government House, he came through the back door. Wallis' military canteen was also segregated. Indeed at one charity event, after she found herself shaking hands with a multitude of well-wishers including Arthur, their black chauffeur, Wallis, who had black servants in her childhood, remarked to local historian Mary Moseley: 'It's the first time in my life I have ever shaken the hand of a coloured person.' "

Some official documents relating to the 1936 Abdication are withheld from the public under the 100 year rule, so it may be January 2037 before they are released. Unless other unofficial sources are found, Morton’s biography could remain the definitive account of Wallis’ loves and marriages.

Wallis could never be described as attractive, nice, kind or caring. There is one inescapable conclusion from Wallis in Love: that Wallis really had one great love—herself.

WallisInLove_cover.jpg

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Margaret Holder has been writing about the Royal Family in newspapers and magazines for thirty years. She also broadcasts frequently on the BBC, both radio and television. She reckons she has now written more royal documentaries than anyone else in the world. Some are still being shown on channels in…

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